March 7th, 2013
Some years ago, the USDA discarded the food pyramid to make way for MyPlate food guidelines which are less confusing and easier to follow. These guidelines recommend that half your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables while the other half be divided between whole grains and lean proteins. However, the vegan diet is restrictive, making it difficult to get all nutrients that are essential for the body. It eliminates meats, dairy and poultry products which are the main source of protein and calcium.
What the vegan foods don’t provide
Since the vegan diet excludes animal products known for their ideal lean protein, calcium and Vitamin B12 content, a vegan must pay special attention to see that they receive these essential nutrients in adequate quantities from alternative sources. Plant based products are not known to provide Vitamin B12, this makes it essential for vegans to include foods like breakfast cereals, soymilk or veggie burgers fortified with the vitamin.
The Vegan Diet Food Pyramid
For a person following a vegan diet, MyPlate guidelines must be adjusted to meet the requirements of a nutritious and healthy meal. Since milk and dairy products provide protein and calcium, the vegan diet food pyramid lists alternative sources that provide vegans with the required nutrients. Let’s take a look.
While the vegan diet food pyramid excludes animal and dairy products, it stresses on the use of whole grains for a nutritious diet. Not surprisingly, it recommends six to eleven servings of whole grains per day. This food group includes corn, rice, barley, millet, oats, buckwheat, bulgur and foods made from whole grains like pasta, bread and cereal. Whole grains are by far the richest source of fiber and they also provide proteins, complex carbohydrates that provide us energy, B vitamins and zinc.
MyPlate guidelines recommend eating plenty of vegetables and fruits which is ideal for the vegan diet. Leafy vegetables like collards, kale, spinach, amaranth and carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage and asparagus provide iron, fiber, calcium, riboflavin and beta carotene. Vegan diet food pyramid suggests having three or more servings of vegetables each day.
Like vegetables, the vegan diet food pyramid advocates 3 servings of fruits each day. Fruits are the most delicious of the food groups including melons, berries, citrus fruits, apples, bananas, papayas, etc and are an excellent source of fiber, natural sugars, calcium, iron, beta-carotene as well as Vitamin A and C. The more the variety of fruit you eat, the better it is to help you make up for the lack of essential nutrients.
The top portion of the vegan diet food pyramid is made up of the legume group. If you follow a vegan diet, get your quota of protein, zinc, fiber and vitamins from all types of beans, peas, lentils that must form a part of your regular diet. 2 or more servings daily should do the trick.
Fats and oils
Despite consuming fats and oils in excess, we may not get our supply of omega 3 fats that are essential for brain functioning and cardiovascular health. For those following the MyPlate food guidelines, supply of Omega-3 fatty acids comes from eating oily fish like cod, salmon and tuna. Vegan foods like flax seeds, walnuts and canola oil are a good source of Omega 3 fats. Other nuts and seeds also provide essential oils and fat, proteins, minerals and fiber for vegan diets.
Complying with MyPlate guidelines with vegan foods
Vegans can use milk substitutes like soy milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk and rice milk in cereals and smoothies. These milk substitutes may take time getting used to, but they play a major role in providing nutritionally balanced meals for vegans. If you include lots of whole grains, vegetables and fruits in every meal, and supplementing them with nuts, seeds and beans, you satisfy MyPlate guidelines while also following the vegan diet food pyramid.
Prepare your meal with your favorite whole grain, cooked beans or peas and one green leafy vegetable. Fill up one half of the plate with the veggies, a quarter of the plate with the whole grains and the other quarter with peas or beans. Cut up some fruit for dessert, and you have satisfied all the requirements of the MyPlate guidelines with vegan foods.